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The Climate Chap: Climate crisis and your stomach


SteveGreen-607-315STEVE GREEN

Te toto o te tangata he kai, te oranga o te tangata he whenua – food is the blood of the people, but the welfare of the people lies in the land.

To save our planet I want you personally to immediately become a vegetarian or a vegan and rely on a diet of locally produced organic food. It’s not going to happen, is it?

I have major reservations about writing this feature, but it’s impossible to talk about the climate crisis without considering the production, distribution and consumption of food

We love our food. We have the freedom to eat whatever and whenever we desire. In Mangawhai there is simply an abundance of food to enjoy. When we emigrated from Auckland to Mangawhai, ‘takeaways’ were fish ’n chips or pies. Now we can indulge in Italian, Thai, Indian, Chinese, Mexican, French, American, and Japanese foods, combined with being able to order a vast array of foods online and have them delivered to our door. It’s called progress.

However, there are two huge problems with our food. Firstly, the massive amounts of damaging greenhouse gasses generated by livestock, and secondly the emissions generated during the production and distribution of foods, especially those being imported. To achieve our ‘carbon neutral’ goals by 2050 this must change!

Everyone reading this article eats food, but chances are you are unaware of the impact on the climate crisis that your daily intake gener-ates? If you love beef, dairy produce or imported processed food you are personally contributing to those substantial nasty emissions trapped in our atmosphere.

Some simple steps to reduce your emissions: Try having one ‘meat free’ day a week. Then allocate a different day to being ‘dairy free’. If you survive, try extending to two days each. Also be a patriot and strive to buy food made in Aotearoa. This is important as overseas products result in harmful emissions simply by being transported here. If possible buy seasonal vegetables, fruits and salads grown locally. Better still buy organic as no fertilisers that also cause nasty emissions are used. Buy just enough, so as to avoid throwing away uneaten food, and try composting if necessary. Obviously recycle as much packaging materials, bottles and plastics as possible.

In Mangawhai we are fortunate to have two wonderful Saturday morning markets offering a wide selection of healthy locally grown foods. Check them out and support the local economy. 

The ‘perfect climate crisis diet’, generating the minimum of nasty emissions, would involve adopting a vegetarian, or a vegan diet, either growing your own vegetables, fruits and salads or buying them from a local organic provider. Buy New Zealand foods in preference to imports. It’s that simple!

If that describes you, fantastic. But if not it would be totally ridiculous for me to hope that you will change your diet drastically just by read-ing this article. 

Almost 50 per cent of all the nasty emissions generated in New Zealand come from livestock burping, farting and poohing. This generates methane, a far more potent gas than carbon dioxide produced from fossil fuels such as petrol, coal and natural gas. To minimise this problem the only option available is to reduce the number of livestock generating methane, and the only way to achieve this is by reducing the consumption of meats and dairy products. Much R&D funding is being invested in changing how livestock eat and process grass, and indeed the grass they consume, but until there are major scientific breakthroughs, we need to reduce our intake.

More about food and the climate crisis in future articles. Food for thought though.

Steve Green, Mangawhai’s ‘computer chap’, has been retired here for 12 years having previously lived and worked in London, New York and Auckland. He welcomes your feedback at theclimatechap@gmail.com if you have any climate questions, recommendations or concerns to raise.

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